Mori, Nicolas (DNB00)

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MORI, NICOLAS (1797–1839), violinist, was born in London on 24 Jan. 1797, according to the inscription on a portrait of him issued in 1805. He received his first instruction, on a miniature violin at the age of three, from the great Barthelemon in 1800, and at a concert for his benefit given at the King's Theatre on 14 March 1805 (see portrait above referred to), under the patronage of the Duke and Duchess of York and the Dukes of Sussex and Cambridge, he played Barthelemon's difficult concerto known as 'The Emperor.' In 1808 he took part in the concerts promoted by Mr. Heaviside the musical surgeon, and became a pupil of Viotti, then in exile in London. He remained till 1814 under Viotti's tuition, and under his tutor's auspices took part in the first Philharmonic Society's concert in 1813. In 1814, while still in the Philharmonic orchestra, he acted as one of the society's directors, and also became a member of the opera band. In 1816 he was appointed leader of the Philharmonic orchestra.

In 1819 Mori married the widow of the music publisher Lavenu, whose business he carried on at 28 New Bond Street, in conjunction with his stepson, Henry Louis Lavenu. It was in this capacity that he published for a few years (in collaboration with W. Ball) the excellent annual 'The Musical Gem,' and later (in 1837), after a keen competition with Novello, he issued Mendelssohn's Concerto in D Minor. From 1819 to 1826 he was the teacher of Dando, afterwards the eminent violinist. In 1823, on the establishment of the (now Royal) Academy of Music, he was a member of the first board of professors, and thenceforward became one of the principal orchestral leaders of provincial festivals. Thus we find him in September and October 1824 leading the band at the Wakefield and Newcastle festivals, and in September 1825, in conjunction with Kieswetter and Loder, at the York festival. It was here that he had the bad taste to challenge comparison with Kieswetter, by playing Mayseder's Concerto No. 3 in D, which Kieswetter had chosen as his piece de resistance. A. contemporary critic says : 'The two artists are not comparable together. Mr. Mori excels in tone and vigour, Mr. Kieswetter in delicacy and feeling.' In 1826 he led the band at the Covent Garden oratorios, and in 1827 succeeded Venua as leader of the Covent Garden opera band. He then (in 1831) became a member of the orchestra of the 'Concerts of Antient Music' at the New Rooms, Hanover Square. From this time his public appearances were mainly restricted to his own concerts, which were generally held in May. At his concert in 1835 he cleared 800l., and a similar sum in 1836, in which year he instituted a series of chamber music concerts, in continuation of those conducted by Blagrove, whom he virtually challenged by playing the same compositions. He died on 18 June 1839 from the breaking of an aneurism, having been for some years the victim of a cerebral derangement which rendered him at times brusque, irritable, and violent. Immediately before his death he announced a concert whose programmes were headed by the grim device of a death's head and the legend Memento Mori.

As a performer 'Mori's attitude had the grace of manly confidence. His bow arm was bold, free, and commanding, and the tone he produced was eminently firm, full, and impressive. His execution was alike marked by abundant force and fire, by extraordinary precision and prodigious facility, but lacked niceties of finish and the graces and delicacies of expression' (Quarterly Mag. Music, iii. 323).

He left behind him a son, Francis Mori (1820-1873), the composer of a cantata, entitled 'Fridolin;' an operetta, with words by George Linley [q. v.], entitled 'The River Sprite,' which was performed at Covent Garden on 9 Feb. 1865; many songs, and a series of vocal exercises. He died at Chamant, near Senlis, in France, on 2 Aug. 1873.

Mori's sister was a celebrated contralto. She was singing in Paris in 1830, married the singer Gosselin,and virtually retired in 1836, although she reappeared in Siena, Vicenza, Mantua, Verona, &c., in 1844.

[An account of his life and death appeared in the Morning Post of 24 June 1839, which was followed by a pamphlet, written in signally bad taste, entitled Particulars of the Illness and Death of the late Mr. Mori the Violinist, by E. W. Duffin, Surgeon (London, 1839, pp. 20). The published biographies of Mori are fragmentary, and for the most part incorrect. Fetis's notice, where the Christian name appears as Francis, is notably so. The best account is in Dubourg's work on the violin (edit. 1878, pp. 214-17). In the Musical World (ii. 144) occurs a charming sonnet upon him, signed 'William J. Thoms,' which is cleverly parodied at p. 207 by another signed 'Thomas J. Bhills.' A notice in the Quarterly Magazine of Music, 1821, iii. 323, was transferred almost bodily to the Biog. Dict. of Musicians, 1827, 2nd edit. ii. 179, and is paraphrased in Musical Recollections of the Last Half Century, London, 1872, i. 108. See also A. Pougin's Viotti, Paris, 1888; G. Dubourg's The Violin, London, 1878; unpublished documents in possession of the writer.]

E. H.-A.